Temporary Chicanes Calm Mr. Eckerson’s Neighborhood


StreetFilms’
Clarence Eckerson, Jr., shows how the alternate side dance can slow traffic.

On alternate side of the street parking days, many communities in
Brooklyn have worked out a deal so car owners are allowed to double
park without impunity so the streets can get their weekly brushing.
(Okay, let’s not touch that argument today.) During the interim
switchover when drivers are relocating their cars – usually lasting
about 15 to 20 minutes – chicanes are temporarily created, which
delightfully slow car speeds to more human levels.

  • I love it Clarence! I think this is good evidence that a chicane can achieve the same result as a speedbump without the bump.

    Part of what you see here is a result of a narrow street. Many other streets can easily support double parking on one or both sides without creating a chicane. Widening sidewalks and adding chicanes would be a winning combo in most NYC neighborhoods.

  • I’m so glad that people “double park without impunity”!

  • Mark

    I was walking down Ninth Ave. in Manhattan today and noticed how many non-major side streets were actually four lanes, with two lanes of parking and two for moving traffic. The narrower and curvier they get for cars, the happier I’ll be! However, you’ve first got to overcome the animosity of drivers who lose parking spots. Then you’ve got to take on the FDNY which will complain that fire trucks are restricted — this is why so many post-WWII suburbs have dangerously wide streets and rounded corners. See “Suburban Nation” by Duany, et al for details on how fire chiefs are an obstacle to progress. And I’m guessing the Sanit Dept won’t be happy to see the street cleaners driving in anything other than a straight line.

  • Love it! Question, though: if chicanes were built on these streets, would they hamper water drainage during heavy rains? Or street cleanings?

  • Clarence

    RE: #2:

    Oops! Fixed that, thanks. I wrote that after 3 hours of sleep off the plane down here in Melbourne.

    There is a reason I am a filmmaker first and a writer….err…maybe fifth?

  • Clarence

    Carrie and others,

    I know the water drainage is not an issue in places I have seen them used like in Portland and Berkeley. They use designs so water can flow behind them. In fact, Portland incorporates some of them now into their bioswale program to put more green on the streets.

    In regards to what I was hoping to achieve with this video, it is simple: I don’t know where chicanes would be appropriate in NYC or who would determine that or if any of the streets I filmed should have them.

    But my neighborhood has been very anti-traffic calming over the years (remember the grand plans for Downtown Brooklyn traffic calming got severely diluted once the CBs got their hands on them?) And I am sick and tired of people saying that traffic calming won’t work because of this or that or cars go to fast or the street geometry can’t handle it.

    All one has to do is look at the video and see – 1) these are mostly narrow streets, 2) the double parking forms some temporarily tight chicanes and 3) the end result is drivers navigate just fine thru them. I have seen vans and small trucks make it no worries, 18 wheelers and big trucks probably do have some difficulties but then again THEY SHOULDN’T BE ON these kind of neighborhood streets.

    So what we have is a lesson drivers can be taught to behave, whatever type of traffic calming you chose. I am down videotaping in Melbourne right now, its hard to believe it with your own eyes, if you aren’t on a highway, you see traffic calming everywhere – all shapes and forms.

  • momos

    Re #3:
    Obviously they have fire depts in old European cities with narrow street networks and get by just fine. What are the reasons fire depts in the US give for not being able to do so the same job? Are they straitjacketed into buying totally inappropriate equipment that we have to specifically design roads for?

  • Mark

    Momos, they like big trucks. Big trucks need big streets. To be fair to the FDNY, they’re probably already getting by with smaller trucks than the suburbs. Also, the syndrome is more common in post-WWII developments.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    It’s sad that we’ve spent hundreds of millions designing roads around hundred thousand dollar fire trucks. As a student planner I’m sympathetic to the needs of fire departments but from my many trips to Germany I can tell you that they do just fine over there with much smaller trucks.

    In Lambertville NJ the fire department purposely bought smaller fire trucks with short wheelbases that allow them to better navigate their narrow 19th century streets.

    PS – Not to hijack this thread but relating this to Congestion Pricing, why hasn’t anyone brought up the fact the emergency services are continuously delayed by hundreds of hours everyday by congestion in Manhattan and elsewhere through out the city? Fire departments complain about traffic calming all the time but seem to accept that cars getting in their way is totally fine. Even here in this example I doubt that a fire truck could have gotten through in a quite a few of the examples Clarence showed in his video.

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